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High bar squat vs. low bar squat: Which is better for strength and hypertrophy?

In general, there are two types of squat exercises: the high bar and the low bar squat.

These names have nothing to do with the equipment you’re using – they both include a regular barbell – but instead refer to where you hold the bar on your back while squatting.

To get smart, the high bar squat has a bar 2 to 3 inches higher at your shoulders than the low squat.

Although this is a slight change, it is enough to modify the mechanics of the exercise so that it feels like completely different exercises. This, in turn, has led many people to wonder which type of squat is best for gaining muscle and strength.

In short the long story is that both styles of squatting have their pros and cons for different people and goals, but not necessarily ‘better’ or ‘worst’ for all.

In this article, you’ll learn what high and low bar squats are, how to do them with proper form, and when to use one versus the other.

High bar vs low squat

The high bar squat has a bar resting directly on the upper trapezius muscles, while the low bar squat has a bar resting between the upper traps and the posterior deltoid (about 2 to 3 inches down your back).

Here’s what that difference looks like:


Low bar squat height


The main difference you will notice while squatting, regardless of where the bar is pressing against your back, is that your torso stays more straight and your knees move forward more in a high squat than in a low squat.

Here’s how this looks:



Which is better low or high bar



You might also be wondering, why not put the tape somewhere in between these two points? The average position of the tape?

The reason for this is that your back has two anatomical “slits” where you can securely place a barbell: one above the traps (high bar position) and the other above the posterior deltoid and shoulder blades (low-bar position). Apart from these two points, there are no other safe places to hold a barbell on your back.

You can try to position the bar somewhere between the high and low bar positions, but you’ll likely find that it slides back into the low bar position after several reps.

Anyway, some people claim that this difference in the torso angle between the high and low bar radically alters the muscles that are trained through each variation. Specifically, what you will usually hear is that the high squat bar trains you preferentially quads, while a low squat emphasizes your lower back And the glute muscles.

You will also notice that you will likely be able to squat with 5 to 10% more weight using the low bar position rather than the high bar position. This has led many people to believe that the lower bar squat is better for gaining muscle because it allows you to use heavier weights.

And almost all of this is a riot.

First, let’s deal with the misconception that high bar squats are better for training the quads, while low bar squats are better for training the glutes and lower back. Evidence against this idea comes from A a study Posted by scholars in Human Kinetics Journal, which found that muscle activation of the quads, glutes, hamstrings, and spine springs was identical in well-trained weightlifters using both high and low squats.

That is, both types of squats train all relevant muscle groups equally.

Other research has found similar results when comparing muscle activation during Front and back squat And when using Full squat (“ass to grass”) and parallel.

Basically, as long as you sit with heavy weights relatively close to failure and use Proper squat techniqueAll squats train your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles equally.

So, if muscle activation is the same during high and low squats, why can most people lift more weight in the low bar position?

This is because the low bar squat puts you in a more mechanically beneficial position for a heavy squat than the high bar squat. Although your muscles produce the same amount of force during both squats, a low bar position is more effective in using this force to move the barbell.

Think of it this way: Although two cars may produce the same horsepower (power), a car with better gears will be able to pull heavier loads. This is the case with squats – you can think of a lower bar squat as having a slightly better “gear” for moving a barbell.

The important thing to remember, however, is that the absolute amount of weight on the crossbar is not What makes your muscles grow?. Rather, it’s the amount of tension your muscles are forced to produce, and research shows that both high and low bar squats produce the same amount of tension in the muscle fibers (technically, activation, which is a suitable proxy).

Thus, both types of squats (and front squats, for that matter), are roughly equal in terms of their muscle-building ability.

This does not mean that everyone can benefit from both techniques of squatting equally.

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Should you do high or low squats?

If you’re like me, and have fairly average limb lengths, mobility, looks, and intelligence. . . *starts crying softly*. . . And you just want to get stronger, build muscle, and stay healthy, it doesn’t matter what squatting style you do. You can stick entirely by holding on to a high or low squat or doing a combination of both—do whatever works for your bouncers.

However, if you suffer from an anatomical abnormality or have more specific goals, you may want to be strategic about the type of squat you choose.

You may prefer a low bar squat position if. . .

You may prefer a high squat position if. . .

  • You have limited movement in the shoulder or wrist. This can make it difficult to get your hands in the proper position while squatting on a low bar.
  • Your lower back hurts when you squat. The lower bar squat requires a more aggressive forward tilt, which makes the high bar squat more comfortable for some people. However, both styles of squatting still put a lot of stress on your back, so you might want to try front squat Instead, it puts less pressure on your back (or, you know, takes some time off from squatting to allow your back to heal).
  • You are bored sitting on a low bar and want to try something new.

Some people also report that they don’t feel “tight” or secure while squatting, but that’s mostly just a matter of practice. After a few weeks of squatting on a high bar, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Personally, I like to use both types in my workouts. If I squat once a week, I will usually focus on the high bar position or the low bar position for at least 12-16 weeks before switching to the other style. If I’m sitting twice a week, I’ll often sit in a high squat one day and a low bar the other.

In general, it does not matter whether you use a high or low squat position. Both are equally effective at building muscle and strength, and the only reason to use one over the other is due to anatomical differences, personal preference, or weightlifting competition.

One contestant to the point above is about working out programming: Whichever squat style you choose, be sure to do it at least once a week for at least 8 to 12 weeks, preferably longer. The reason for this is that constantly alternating between high and low squats each week makes it difficult to master either technique, decrease How much weight can you use thus how many muscles You can build.

And if you really can’t decide which style to try first, start with the low bar position. It will let you use slightly heavier weights, so why not give it a go first?

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Written by Joseph

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